This will be a short post. I’m giving a speech on the Fourth Annual Low-Carb cruise in a couple of weeks, and I’m still putting it together. I pretty much have the text written, but for some reason my wife doesn’t like it when I give her a list of 100 graphics to produce with only a day or two to spare, so now I have to think through all the slides.
The speech is titled Science For Smart People, and the premise behind it is that even we lowly non-scientists can learn to spot the difference between worthwhile studies and nonsense studies if we just apply some basic logic and understand a little about how science works – or how it’s supposed to work, anyway. One point I’ll be making is that researchers who are more interested in pushing an agenda than in pursuing the truth sometimes make statements in the conclusions section of a study that have little or nothing to do with the actual data.
I’ll be giving a few examples, but this one is my favorite. It was a short clinical trial with the objective listed as follows:
To compare the efficacy of a low-carbohydrate/high-fat versus a moderate-carbohydrate/low-fat diet for weight loss and cardiovascular risk reduction.
Simple enough. We want to know if low-carb or low-fat produces better results. So the investigators divided a randomized population of overweight adults into three diet groups: the two diets mentioned above, plus a control group. Here are the results:
Both the Low and Moderate Carbohydrate groups lost significantly more weight as well as inches from their waists and thighs than the Control group, while the Low Carbohydrate group lost a greater percentage of body fat. Although the Moderate Carbohydrate group showed significant reductions in serum cholesterol, the Low Carbohydrate group showed the greatest improvements in serum cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, and very-low-density lipoprotein.
Couldn’t be more clear. The low-carb/high-fat diet wins hands downs. The low-carb dieters lost just as much weight as the low-fat group, more of the weight they lost was actual body fat, and they showed the greatest improvements in all the usual cardiovascular risk factors.
So what was the conclusion of the researchers? Here it is:
Moderate approaches to weight loss such as a moderate-carbohydrate low-fat diet may be prudent.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, based on data that clearly showed a low-carb/high-fat diet to be superior, we are recommending low-fat diets for weight loss. We think it’s prudent. And by “prudent,” we of course mean we’d like to remain eligible for future research grants.
Speaking of cardiovascular risk factors, you may recall that when Gary Taubes appeared on the Dr. Oz show, he refused to have one of those quick-and-dirty cholesterol tests, which of course made many viewers suspicious. “Meat Boy,” as Gary was introduced, must have something to hide, doncha know.
But in his most recent blog post, Gary explains that he did recently go in for a full metabolic panel, partly at the urging of his wife and partly to answer his critics. You can read the full details on his blog, but here are some interesting numbers:
Total Cholesterol: 204
LDL Pattern: large buoyant
The most reliable predictor of heart disease you can calculate from a lipid panel is Triglycerides/HDL. Anything below 2.0 is considered excellent; 3.0 is so-so, and above 5.0 means get your affairs in order. Gary’s ratio is below 1.0. (Last time I had a lipid panel done, my ratio was 1.1)
There are several other lab results listed that all add up to very low cardiovascular risk. As Gary wrote before revealing the numbers:
Keep in mind as you go through these that I do indeed eat three eggs with cheese, bacon and sausage for breakfast every morning, typically a couple of cheeseburgers (no bun) or a roast chicken for lunch, and more often than not, a ribeye or New York steak (grass fed) for dinner, usually in the neighborhood of a pound of meat. I cook with butter and, occasionally, olive oil (the sausages). My snacks run to cheese and almonds. So lots of fat and saturated fat and very little carbohydrates. A deadly diet, according to Dr. Oz.
But Gary, Dr. Oz is up to his elbows in people’s chests during heart surgery, so he knows what causes heart disease.
Back to the speech …